Global Affairs

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U.S. Indictment Underlines Growth of Islamic Extremism in Nigeria, Led by Al-Qaeda & Iran

Though global attention has recently been focused on the crescent formed by Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq – a region that has become a battlefield for warring Sunni and Shiite groups – the area is not the only one in which sectarian factions are battling for control.

In May, a joint operation conducted by Israeli and Nigerian intelligence agencies led to the arrest of three Lebanese nationals charged with being Hezbollah operatives. Hezbollah’s penetration of Nigeria is part of a larger effort by Tehran to establish vast networks of personnel and materials throughout Africa.

But Hezbollah is not the only terrorist organization operating in Nigeria. Boko Haram, an extreme Sunni group, has repeatedly launched attacks against religious it deems heretical – most spectacularly against Christians – in Nigeria.

Now a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who operated in Nigeria has been indicted by a U.S. court for facilitating terrorism:

A federal court in Brooklyn, New York yesterday unsealed an indictment filed on Feb. 21 against Nigerian citizen Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi, who is said to have provided material support to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Babafemi has been in Nigerian custody since 2012. Court documents showed that between January 2010 and August 2011, Babafemi “traveled twice from Nigeria to Yemen to meet and train with leaders of AQAP,” according to an FBI press release. While there, Babafemi allegedly received weapons training and aided AQAP in the production of Inspire magazine.

The United States is seeking Babafemi’s extradition. He is accused of working at the direction of the notorious Anwar Al-Awlaki.

Babafemi is not accused of having direct contact with Boko Haram, though Al Qaeda and Boko Haram have been known to work together.

[Photo: AK Rockefeller / Flickr]